August 7, 2004NLBPA’s Harold Gould is featured in this article...
Take a bow, Harold Gould
Saturday, August 07, 2004
By KAY RUDDEROW
DEERFIELD TWP. -- Harold Gould, born and raised on an old-fashioned family farm on Shoemaker Lane in Fairfield Township, is proud of his family's heritage.
His community and an entire country are proud of him as well.
Nearing age 80, Gould is one of five remaining members of the famed Philadelphia Stars of the Negro League.
He will be honored as such at the first Negro League Memorial Park Benefit being held Sept. 2 at the Mann Music Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia.
The park will include a 7-foot bronze sculpture of a proud, determined Negro League Player as a centerpiece at the intersection of Belmont and Parkside avenues this fall.
Gould is the only member of the team who was not from the Philadelphia area, joining Wilmer Harris, Mahlon Duckett, Bill Cash and Stanley Glenn as the team's living legends.
"Being raised on a farm, working hard, where we had no electric, no running water, made me stronger than a lot of other kids my age," Gould said in a recent interview.
"We went to the Gouldtown School. It had three rooms, and just about all of us attending were relatives," he recalled.
Gould graduated from Bridgeton High School in 1943, and Cumberland County College in 1976, just ahead of his daughter.
"I was working to support her going to school so I had to graduate before she did," he said with a laugh.
But before he married and raised a family (four children, four grandchildren, four great-grandchildren) Gould loved to play baseball.
"We kids would get together and use a stick, or sometimes an old broken bat, to hit a rubber ball around the bases in a field," he said. "We didn't even have gloves."
"We'd play all winter, into spring, on muddy ground. But I never realized then I was gaining ability as well as having fun," he said. "We called ourselves the Gouldtown Yankees."
"I didn't know if I was a pitcher, but I knew I could throw a ball," he said. "Farming just made me stronger."
At a high school assembly one day, Gould learned of tryouts for a baseball team.
"Rex Bowen was an instructor and said he thought I would be chosen," Gould continued. "He said I was a pitcher and should be on the junior varsity team."
"I learned a lot from (Bowen). On the team, there was a little prejudice and they would give the other members who weren't as able the opportunity to play.
"They would fail and then they would call me and I got the job done. He eventually put me on top of the ladder," Gould said.
Gould noted that back then, "There were no luxuries like pitching, catching or base-stealing coaches to make us more fit. And we played the same schedule as the Major League teams."
He still marvels at the fact that, out of millions of African Americans, he had the natural ability to be a player on a major team.
Playing for thousands
"Once I got out of high school, I played for a black team we called the Colored Giants. Leonard's Army-Navy Store gave us uniforms," he said.
"I was a dominant Bridgeton player. One day, the owner of the store, Lenard Phlum, sent for me and told me I was too good to play here and to see a friend of his in Philadelphia who wanted to meet me. So I got on the bus and went to Philadelphia. I was handed a contract to sign to play for the Stars."
The man he met there was Eddie Gottleib, who then owned the Philadelphia Warriors (now the 76ers).
"I still hadn't realized what a big step this was -- I was only 19 -- and they told me to go to the Polo Grounds in New York. I'd never been there before, but I took a bus and a train, and then another train, and finally just walked 35 blocks to the Polo Grounds," he said.
"When I got there, they told me I was going to pitch. There were 25,000 people in the stands and I wondered how I was going to do it," Gould said.
"I pitched seven or eight innings and then they relieved me and sent me home. I thought I was fired. We'd always played the full nine innings at home," he said.
"Then, the next morning, I learned that it was normal to have a pitcher relieved after seven innings. This was just the beginning.
"The following February, they sent me to Florida. I'd never been there either," he said. "In fact, until this time, I'd never been out of Gouldtown!"
There were times when his league outdrew attendance at major league games, he said. He believes this was one reason it made economic sense to include minorities in today's major leagues.
"But it was the demise of the black league," he said.
Gould pitched in 1945, played until 1947 and in 1948 went to Canada to a Quebec team, where he learned, "My high school French wasn't anywhere close to what I was hearing. I had to carry around a little book to know what they were saying."
A new life begins
Gould enlisted in the Army in 1950 and served in Korea until 1952, but did not return to the Stars.
"After that I just played locally," he said.
He also resumed his education, becoming a top-of-the-line welder at the Salem and Hope Creek nuclear power plants, teaching Industrial and Related Arts at Bridgeton High School and, later, at Leesburg State Prison while earning his degree in vocational arts and industrial teaching at Glassboro State College.
He still farms and is considered one of the area's top metal workers, both in repairs and building of farming equipment, and designing some of his own furniture and ironwork.
Today, even though the calendar says he should be retired, he continues to work at his home doing equipment repairs. He teaches other younger workers the trade.
While the Negro League baseball games gave him one kind of recognition, Gould's good nature and energetic outlook on life may be his strongest legacy.
Copyright 2004 Bridgeton News